I Have Said This Before…

Computer directory listing

Computer Directory.

In a recent post I caution against judging traditional print-on-paper phone directories to be dead.  This post is a timely complement to that post.  Briefly, be cautious of people who want to be paid convincing you that phone directories are dead.  If I can say this again and help someone be a smarter, better decision maker, I will say it again.

Make sure you’re doing business with a reputable internet marketing company.  Make sure you’re doing business with a reputable advertising professional.  Can’t say it enough.

In particular, beware of  people who offer savings as the reason to dump advertising or shift investments as their key benefit. 

Advertising opportunities — and risks — are very confusing today and a class of “experts” ready to prey upon the uninformed or the gullible lurks out there.  They look for businesses owners who might not know exactly what their advertising does for their business.  They also look for people lured by the appeal of being trend-forward  Perhaps they will capitalize on business owners ready to outsource some of their management responsibilities.  Most often they use savings as the key incentive for doing business. 

If savings cut profits, they’re not really savings.

These cutters and slashers promise businesses access to the riches being made on internet…kind of.  They often offer access to the internet, but they really sell savings.  Instead of paying X, pay one-half of X and get internet advertising, for example.

First of all, if you’re currently buying “old media” chances are good that your old media service also offers “new media” options for your business.  Take advantage of your existing relationship.  Your current advertising professional already knows something about your business.  They have the same incentives for your success whether you invest in existing services or expand into new ones.

Second, check your “expert.”  With all due respect to SEO and SEM professionals, look at proliferation of internet marketing professionals out there, especially in a down economy.  There are many people eager to stretch their experience a bit into an expertise in now-vogue areas of social media, mobile search, and good old fashioned search engine marketing and website optimization.  Just look at profiles on Facebook, Twitter, or the like.  It can feel like everyone is an internet guru today.

In my opinion, you should pass on anyone who comes to you offering you savings and only asks for a percentage of the savings as compensation.  (“You pay nothing unless I can save you money.”)   They will look at your current advertising contracts and offer to negotiate a better program.  It sounds good, but…Ask yourself, do you think they will look to maximize savings to serve your best interests or to increase their commission?

Of course you need to be cautious of anyone selling on commission and ask yourself the same question about whose interests are best being served.  Most of these cutter services, however, operate on a single contract and move on.  Perhaps they will ask for a two-year contract.  In other words, they have no long term interest in your business.  Unlike an advertising professional selling services based on results versus savings, they have a short-term incentive — your savings — and not the long-term incentive of selling services that will generate revenue and profits.

Likewise be careful with new media programs that offer to find you savings in your current advertising contracts and transfer those savings to cover new advertising programs.  Many people are ready to find “savings” for you in one media only if they can transfer it to another program. 

Make sure you are working with someone who wants your business, not just your cash.  Test them.  Tell them you’re happy with your current advertising media; tell them you think it is earning a profit for you.  If the primary reason given for doing business with them is to shift “wasted” money to “better” advertising, make them work more for the sale.  If you’re making a profit on one form of advertising, they should not try to cut your advertising.  They can offer to diversify by adding to your opportunities, but why should you cut something that is already profitable?

I learn everyday that many new media reps don’t understand their old media competition.  Even well-qualified new media advertising professionals don’t always understand the old media they claim to be replacing.  Unfortunately this shortcoming isn’t easy to spot and isn’t likely to be less common in years to come.  This is a red flag that business owners might not ever see . 

When choosing an advertising professional, maybe it helps to think about another major purchase that has changed over the years.  Think of the automobile industry.  Cars have changed dramatically over the years, but people often buy cars from the same dealer even as auto technology changes.  Experienced advertising professionals are not that much different.  Experience and relationships matter.

And I still contend that some of the best values today are in old media.  A phone directory might not be what it was twenty years ago, but it still works and can be more cost-effective now than it was then.  Don’t sacrifice this standby prematurely and if you’re not taking advantage of it, talk to a reputable ad professional and see if it should be in your advertising mix.


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